Top, photograph by Todd Hido, 1922a, from the series Foreclosed Homes. Via. Bottom, photograph by Peter van Agtmael, from the book Disco Night Sept 11, published by Red Hook Editions, 2014. Via. More.
See also, Nina Berman, Marine Wedding, 2010.
Arguably, the act of memory is an act of fiction.
David Mitchell, interviewed by Adam Begley for the Paris Review, 2010. Via.
These past few years we’ve witnessed an explosion of vocabulary as we struggle to conceptualize a new and terrifying time. Terms like distressed mortgages, toxic assets, underwater, along with repurposed words like ghost and zombie. A ghost loan, for example, involves a mortgage fraud scheme, where a 100 percent financed loan is inflated at closing, the buyer and seller in collusion to defraud the lender; in 2009, an ex-Labour MP was suspended after claiming a £16,000 “ghost mortgage” that never existed.
Dean Maki, managing director and chief economist at Barclay’s Capital, refers to underwater mortgages as zombie mortgages: home loans worth more than the underlying value of the house. Zombie foreclosures, meanwhile, are foreclosures originally done by careless foreclosure mills and dismissed, in places where a court is involved, without prejudice. That last part is key: it means that the banks can have a second shot at the foreclosure if they get their act together, and the foreclosure threat rises once again, as it were, from the dead. Zombie debt, on the other hand, involves losses that homeowners assume they’ve already written off. When a bank forecloses on a house and sells it as a loss, it can decide to pursue the homeowner for the difference. And then there are zombie homes, repossessed but unsold properties that bring down the value of the neighborhood, infecting them with the disease of future foreclosures.
We live among the undead. The things that used to have meaning and purpose—not just houses but banks and governments—have been emptied of what they once meant, and yet they remain, haunting us. We are, like the residents of Hillsdale, Illinois, haunted by forces larger than ourselves, imprisoned by the folly of the rich, who have unleashed some unspeakable dread from which we cannot escape.
Colin Dickey, from Unhousing - Foreclosed homes as haunted houses, for the Paris Review, March 2014.